Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Nine Hells

I've always wanted to go to Hell.

Okay. . .not actual Hell, but when I played AD&D I wanted to send the characters to Hell. Despite Dave Sutherland's wonderfull depiction of "A Paladin in Hell" from the AD&D Player's handbook, I was always initially more facinated with the demons as opposed to the devils in the AD&D Monster Manual. That changed thanks to Dragon Magazine and Ed Greenwood. Greenwood's articles on the Nine Hells (from issues #75 and #76) captured my imagination in a way that only a few other articles in the magazine ever did.

Greenwood's articles gave life to those images in the monster manual. Hell was a place rife with intrigue, plotting, and lots of really awful adversaries. More than that the Hells as depicted were an interesting and varied planar environment. Not just a flaming pit, here we had disease filled swamps, frozen wastes, icy rivers, and a few massive dungeons located under the fortresses of Hell's rulers.

When TSR tried to de-Hellify the Nine Hells and turn it into Baator was about when I lost interest in 2nd edition D&D. Planscape was a wildly creative setting and had some gorgeous artwork, but after years of parents freaking out over Satan and D&D they decided to first just kind of not mention Hell and then later to recast it as Baator. Granted they didn't change much about the actual setting--it was clearly still loosely based on previous published versions such as the Manual of the Planes (1st ed.) and Greenwood's articles--but the name change choked out any of the mythic resonance. It was actually Wizards of the Coast who made Hell Hellish again, but I find myself looking over the Greenwood articles and being more inspired by them than anything later.

Despite my facination with the articles I never really ever sent any of my players to Minauros, Maladomini, Avernus, or any other of the Hells. I always was waiting for them to get powerful enough--which we kind of never did. Pretty soon I was under the spell of another game's depiction of cosmic evil: Call of Cthulhu.

One thing that always puzzled me about parents concerned about Satanism and D&D was that the Devils and Demons were clearly put into the books for players to fight. Having a party of 20th level characters butchering their way through Hell and the Abyss and taking out hordes of demons hardly seems like Satanism to me. Gygax and the folks at TSR put them in the books because Players wanted to go up against the big bads of the mutiverse, and you can't get a better depiction of mythic evil than Hell. Enter Asmodeus and his cohorts.

So here's my pitch: a full on campaign set largely in Hell. Screw the we have to wait until we're 15th level and all that. I ride on the hells tomorrow. . .


  1. For an interesting read and possible inspiration, check out Wayne Barlowe's novel God's Demon.

  2. Those articles were sooooo cool! I was in high school when they came out and our DM read them. He was captivated as well.

    Luckily we had been running the same characters for about 5 years and had attained lofty heights. We had defeated the giants, slashed and burned our way through the realms of the kuo-toa, troglodytes and drow. And, in the end, had even defeated the demi-goddess Lolth.

    We were ready. We begged and pleaded...We WANTED to go to hell. Far be it for our benevolent DM to scorn our enthusiasm.

    So he sent us. And we got our cans handed to us. ;-)

    He used an amalgamation of sources though. He pulled in things from Dante's Inferno and Judges Guild products, but most of it was based on those Dragon articles. Boy, those were heady days I tell you.